When can kids ride in the front seat? - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

When can kids ride in the front seat?

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Being able to ride in the front seat is a rite of passage for most kids.  If you have a tween or a pre-teen, you know this is a step they can't wait to make. 


In Arkansas, there is not a law that mandates how old a child should be before they're allowed to ride safely in the front seat.  However, there are guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that parents should follow.


Airbags are strong enough to save the lives of adults, but also capable of killing children.  Airbags inflate at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.  For kids sitting in the front seat that force can kill, cause serious head injury and even decapitate. 


Because of those possibly dangerous outcomes, the program coordinator for child passenger safety education at Arkansas Children's Hospital, Holly Terry, recommends, "Until they reach the age of 13, they need to stay in the back seat."


Terry says that recommendation is based on many factors including the bone strength and development of kids.  That means no matter how big your child is or how much they complain, parents need to remember that kids sitting in front of an airbag are twice as likely to suffer serious injury in a collision as kids sitting in the back seat.


"Kids want to ride in the front seat, and I can remember my kids hounding me to death to ride in the front seat, and you just have to be the parent and you have to take into consideration that this is all about safety," says Terry. "It's not about rewards; it's about getting to do something that you don't normally get to do.  You've got to think safety first."


Terry says airbags are also extremely dangerous for infants.  Children in rear-facing car seats should never ride in the front seat with airbag.  For families that drive trucks, terry says this is something they need to seriously consider.


Many new cars now have side curtain airbags which can also pose a particular threat to kids when they're sleeping on or leaning on the door.


"We do caution them that kids need to stay upright in the vehicle seat to reduce those injuries because we do see fractures, lacerations and numerous things involving the head and neck," says Terry.


In Arkansas the law requires children under 60 pounds, 6 years old and younger have to be properly restrained in a child safety seat.   After that, it is up to parents to decide how safe they want their children to be while traveling in the car.  Terry, however, points out car accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.


"We know wrecks are going to happen, we just don't know when they're going to happen.  I may be a good driver, but that doesn't mean someone can't come and cause me to wreck or hit my car, but what we can affect is the outcome of that wreck and reduce the injuries that occur."


If you're in a position where you have to put a child under the age of 13 in the front seat, Terry suggests moving that seat as far back as possible to create as much space as you can between the child and the airbag.